Hubs and I did the math, and we decided a rain barrel was in order for watering our garden (currently just blueberries, but soon to be tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and who knows what else).
First step was gathering supplies:
- 55 gallon food-grade barrel (eBay, Craigslist, and Google have a ton of used ones listed for sale from $15-$45+). Hubs' dad had an old one in his shop that he generously let us have). It's a little dirty, so we rinsed it out with a hose, but didn't do any more cleaning than that. We're not drinking the water coming out of it, and I don't think the plants will mind a little extra dirt.
- Method of routing water from your downspout into said barrel. This could involve elbows of aluminum, PVC, or even this nifty Catch-A-Raindrop rainwater colander we came across at Home Depot for under $8. It intrigued us so much (and appeared to be a huge time and money saver compared to cutting and re-routing the entire downspout/gutter) that we had to give it a shot. If you go with the latter option like we did, you'll also need a short hose.
- Pieces of copper pipe & a spigot for getting collected rainwater out of the barrel. Here's the configuration we used (hubs soldered all of the copper pieces together before we attached them to the barrel)
- Assorted tools like a drill, spade bits, tin snips/side grinder/reciprocating saw, solder and torch, pliers, teflon tape
- Optional: epoxy, scrap piece of wood and a way to cut it (see below for why we used both of these)
- A way to elevate the barrel off the ground so you have room to put a watering can/bucket underneath to get the water out. We used cinder blocks and old deck boards to raise it up about 2 feet.
Once you have all of your supplies together, the rest is easy. You could easily get this done in under 2 hours if you had 2 people working on it (maybe even 1 hour - seriously!). First, determine where you will place your barrel. Ideally you want it as close to a downspout as you can get and in an out-of-the way location so it's not an eyesore. Here's ours - it's on the back of the house behind the chimney and off the side of our deck, so you can't really see it from the main part of the yard.
Here's the top of the barrel as it was used in a previous life (this will become the bottom of the rain barrel). Take one cap off and carefully drill a hole in the center where your copper pipe will go (hubs used a 5/8" spade bit).
Now the first optional step: our cap was cracked, so we needed to seal it up so it wouldn't leak once the barrel was in place. Hubs used Loctite Epoxy on the inside of the cap. The copper pipe is in the hole he just drilled to make sure the epoxy would set up around it. Halfway through the cure time, hubs took it out.
While the epoxy cured, we cut the existing downspout to attach the Catch-A-Raindrop colander. We used a combination of a reciprocating saw and tin snips, but hubs said a side grinder would have made easy work of it. Then all you do is slide the top piece of gutter down into the colander, attach the bracket to the exterior wall, and slide the cut piece of gutter up into the colander. There is a threaded piece on the outside that a hose screws onto (other end dumps into the rain barrel).
It really is that easy. We were blown away (just for the record, Catch-A-Raindrop is not paying us in any way to use or comment on their product).
When the epoxy in the cap was dry and all the copper was soldered together, it was time for assembly. We wrapped the end of the copper pipe with teflon tape and twisted it into the hole in the cap.
Optional step number 2: To give the spigot some extra security and prevent wiggling, hubs cut a piece of wood into a horseshoe shape and screwed it through the outer lip (NOT the side or bottom) of the barrel and put a screw through the collar of the spigot for good measure.
Then flip your rain barrel over, drill a hole in the top on the side closest to your downspout/gutter - this is where you'll put the other end of the hose that's attached to the Catch-A-Raindrop colander. We didn't seal this or glue the hose or anything - just dropped it in and left about 3 inches of hose inside the barrel.
Build your platform (as needed), making sure it's as level as you can get - don't want a full rain barrel falling over!
Then you wait for it to rain...thankfully that happened the night we put this together. I'm happy to report after a long night of light rain, our barrel was overflowing! This really was easy to do, and had both of us wondering why we waited so long.
I planted a few shade-loving container plants around the base to help hide the cinder blocks (hostas, begonias at the base and impatiens and cordyline in the pots at the top - all from Lowe's). In the last photo you can see the water line about a third of the way down - I've been using it every other day to water our blueberries. No complaints yet!